11 must-read lists

It’s official: Bronze, Iron and Aquarius have passed. Today, we are living in the Age of Listicles.

We, the people of the Internet, are obsessed with lists. We publish article after article categorizing, commemorating, enumerating, elongating, rating. Much of Gawker media wouldn’t even exist without the listicle. The Onion spoofs the trend. My bff has a book of various blank lists to fill out, just for kicks and giggles. We really love lists!

todoWell, by “we,” I mean society at large. Me specifically, not so much. While I occasionally utilize lists, I hate them, all of them: The kind that remind me a bunch of stuff that needs done before Saturday. The kind that tell me what to pack (but I forget something essential anyway). The kind that nudge me to, like, pay bills or get my car towed from that parking lot before the police seize it.

I hate these because they name a million ways to potentially fail. Plus, I just generally dislike organization and tasks and responsibility. Don’t tell me what to do, To-Do List, let me revel in chaos and forgotten chores!

But perhaps the worst kind are the Top Lists — the favorites, the best ofs, the everyone-must-do/watch/wear/karate-chop/believe-these-seven-things. For one thing, they are subjective, and for another, they make me consider what would be on my Top List of fill-in-the-blank, and that’s stressful. It involves decisions. Don’t ask me what my favorite three movies are, because I don’t knowwww, and even if I do I’m not telling because you’ll judge me for including “Lars and the Real Girl” but not “Citizen Kane.”

But since I’m all about self-improvement and zeitgeisty blogging, I am forcing myself to face my disdain and write a listicle. (Probably, like, seventy-six thousand other people have done this, but I didn’t google it to check — it was on my to-do list, but well, you know how I feel about that.)

We like to think that before the dawn of the World Wide Web, lists were reserved to the “bread, eggs, and milk” variety. But they’ve long been more varied than that, integral to our understanding of the universe, and it’s time we honor those that have come before us, paving the way for modern marvels like ThoughtCatalog. So here you go, my Top Eleven Favorite Lists Of Anything From The Dawn of Eternity Until The Universe Passes Away:

1. Santa Claus, The Naughty and The Nice. What threat has cowed more children into obedience with its terrifying promise of coal on Christmas morning?

2. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Sonnet 43.” If she were alive today, Browning undoubtedly would write for BuzzFeed. “How do I love thee, Jennifer Lawrence? Let me count the gifs.”

3. The Founding Fathers, The Declaration of Independence. The extensive enumerations of grievances against ol’ King George spawned the United States and, indirectly and perhaps more importantly, this Valentine (trigger warning: Nicolas Cage).

4. Modern Library, “100 Best Novels.” This is my Ozymandias. Whenever I feel impressed with the number of books I’ve read compared to, say, video games played or mushrooms sauteed, I look at this two-for-one list and am reminded of my own vanity and futility and smallness. So many books, and ain’t nobody got time for James Joyce.

5. Your grandma, those stupid email forwards. Why, yes, I do check my inbox every day in breathless hope for the latest 36 hilarious pranks to pull at Walmart.

6. Isaac Newton, the Three Laws of Motion. And they say the Internet is reactionary! LOL, see what I… did… okay, moving on. Ha! See that? I did it again!

7. Van in front of me in the drive-through, “Yes hello, I’d like sixteen hamburgers, three with cheese and bacon, one with cheese and an extra patty, one gluten-free, six side salads, fourteen snow cones, plus a dozen waters, three Pepsis and an orange juice, oh and a couple of passports and three hand-crafted Windsor chairs. Sure, I’d like fries with that, ten larges to be specific. And can we get some ranch on the side?” Gives me more time to be indecisive about my own order.

8. Martin Luther, “The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” I often moan and gnash my teeth about the Internet jumping the shark with its self-indulgent lists of 50 or more items, but obviously lengthy enumerations are not a new phenomenon.

9. Unknown 18th Century English/possibly French lady, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Long before there was the humble brag, there was the listicle brag. Girl got so many partridges and pipers she had to memorialize it in song.

10. Mankind, time. What is a calendar, really (besides the Maya one, which counted down to doomsday, obvi), but a list of our revolutions around the sun? What is one’s birthday but a count of years lived?

11. The will of God, via the chisel of Moses, the Twelve Commandments. In his iconic To-Not-Do list, Moses made the original and most viral list of ways you can fail. Thousands of years later, people are still pontificating, protesting, and storytelling about this list. Beat that, BuzzFeed.

Inspired by Mark O’Connel’s column in the New Yorker and Tom Standage’s History of Social Media at TEDxOxbridge, which I heard here but you can watch here.

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6 comments

  1. “Trigger warning: Nicolas Cage.” AHAHAHAHAHAHA. (How did you know how I feel about him?)

  2. Slow clap and a good ol’ New Jersey “noyce!”
    Also, Lars and the Real Girl was quite a good movie. Citizen Kane was meh at best.

    1. Film buffs everywhere are shuddering at your “meh”!

  3. LOVE this. Most meta list ever.

  4. That was a most splendid listory of humankind, I must say. I shall never feel listless again.

    1. You win all the pun awards.

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